Six months in jail for Tamil Tiger fundraiser too lax, Canadian MP says
May 15, 2010 01:24 pm
Mr. Dosanjh, who has been threatened and beaten after speaking out against terrorism, said Friday he had hoped the penalty for the first terrorism-financing case would be stiffer.
Mr. Justice Robert Powers, of the B.C. Supreme Court, sentenced Prapaharan Thambithurai to six months in jail after he pleaded guilty this week to fundraising for a banned terrorist group. The law provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years and does not include a minimum sentence.
“Because this was the first case, because it was about terrorism, because it is so scary. . . I think the sentence could have been tougher,” Mr. Dosanjh said.
“The court case shows that
Security and intelligence expert Wesley Wark said Friday’s sentence was obviously very light and weak. “It does not do much in terms of sending a message to Canadian society about the seriousness of the crime,” he said. “I don’t think in anybody’s eyes it could be regarded as a stiff sentence or a sentence that is likely to deter.”
Federal prosecutor Martha Devlin, who said Mr. Thambithurai was a low-level street canvasser, had recommended a two-year sentence. His lawyer, Richard Peck, proposed a three-year suspended sentence. Both sides now have 30 days to decide whether to appeal the sentence.
The court heard that Mr. Thambithurai, 46, collected
humanitarian aid for the Tamil people, although he knew that a portion of the
funds would go to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He also knew that the
LTTE were banned in
He was arrested in B.C. after collecting $600 and pledges to
donate from others. CDs, DVDs, calendars and pledge forms linked to the Tamil
Tigers were in his car at the time of his arrest. Mr. Thambithurai, who lives
in Maple, Ont., with his wife and three children, came to
Judge Powers said Mr. Thambithurai may have hoped that the funds he was collecting would not go to kill people but he was willing to accept that some of the money would help the LTTE. Other than pleading guilty, he offered no expression of remorse or recognition of the seriousness of the offence, the judge said.
The judge said he wanted to impose a sentence that would send a message of deterrence without being excessive. Fanatics would not be deterred, no matter how harsh the sentence, he said. But a jail sentence may deter fundraisers who support humanitarian organizations, knowing that part of the money raised would go to a terrorist group, he said.
Although this case was the first court ruling in
Mr. Wark questioned whether efforts were being wasted on “small fry” and why high-profile raids on the offices of Tamil terrorist groups have yet to result in charges.
Outside the courthouse, Mr. Thambithurai’s wife Uthaya
Prapaharan said her husband was collecting money to provide needy people in
She said the
Photo: Prapaharan Thambithurai